White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday took Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to task for joking that “little elf” Dr. Anthony Fauci be thrown across the Potomac River.
Jean-Pierre did not see the humor in the crack — leveled by a potential challenger of her boss in 2024 — saying at her regular press briefing that DeSantis advocated a “physical assault” on President Biden’s chief medical adviser.
“Just last week, you had Gov. Ron DeSantis [who] suggested that Dr. Fauci should be physically assaulted,” Jean-Pierre maintained while listing examples of a “dangerous trend” of Republicans allegedly advocating violence, a recurring theme in her press briefings recently and coming on the heels of comments from Biden last week likening Trump support to “semi-fascism.”
DeSantis told a cheering crowd last week that “someone needs to grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac” because of his “poor” treatment of children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fauci, 81, said last week that he intends to retire in December.
Jean-Pierre said that other Republicans also had advocated violence, including former President Donald Trump, though she didn’t offer a specific example, and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who shared a cartoon last year of himself attacking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
Fauci is the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and emerged as a heroic figure to Democrats during the pandemic. He is portrayed by fans as a responsible public health leader.
Republicans have slammed Fauci, including for not initially recommending protective anti-coronavirus face masks, only to later urge wearing multiple masks, and for his agency’s links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which indirectly received US funding to perform “gain of function” research before the pandemic.
Fauci sought to tamp down early speculation that COVID-19 may have emerged from a lab leak, though the US intelligence community subsequently said a lab-leak in Wuhan is one of two “plausible” explanations for the pandemic’s origins, in addition to a natural animal-to-human transmission.
Documents released last year revealed that EcoHealth Alliance used US taxpayer dollars on Wuhan lab experiments that modified three bat coronaviruses distinct from COVID-19 and discovered they became much more infectious among “humanized” mice when human-type receptors were added to them.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has engaged in a series of contentious clashes with Fauci over his agency’s links to the Wuhan lab.